UCL News


Mobile phone crime: secure by design

25 May 2007

A workshop addressing the link between mobile phones and crime was held at the Home Office yesterday.

Organised by the UCL Centre for Security & Crime Science (CSCS), the event featured key figures from the mobile phone industry including manufacturers, networks, academics and engineers. Participants were challenged to imagine how today's multifunctional handsets can be redesigned to be less tempting to thieves without making them any less desirable to law-abiding consumers.

Crime involving mobile phones has reached very high levels. Ten thousand mobile phones are stolen every day, with children and young adults the most likely victims. Mobile phone theft now accounts for about 45 per cent of all thefts on the London Underground. Two thirds of robberies are committed by offenders working in groups.

In his keynote address, Crime Reduction Minister Vernon Coaker referred to successful efforts to design out crime in other sectors. He highlighted the 51 per cent reduction in vehicle crime since 1997, much of which can be attributed to changes in vehicle design such as engine immobilisers.

He went on to say: "Rapidly changing technologies have increased the value and variety of handsets and given a boost to opportunistic criminals at the same time. We are fighting back with genuinely innovative solutions. I am convinced that mobile phone crime can be tackled when the handset is still on the drawing board.

"I know that handset manufacturers and network operators have already made considerable progress in tackling mobile phone crime - by blocking 80 per cent of stolen phones within 48 hours for example - but there is much more to do. I want the same powerful blend of imagination and technical expertise that creates today's exciting gadgets to be applied to the problem of phone crime. Today's meeting marks the start of exciting times to come."

Professor Gloria Laycock, from the UCL Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science, said: "We have been stimulating the design and crime prevention agenda since the Institute was established at UCL in 2001. I am delighted to see that the Home Office is encouraging partnership working of this kind, as it will help us to realise the major contribution that manufacturers can make in the ongoing fight against crime."

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